Less than 150km of hiking still separate me from the northernmost point of the European mainland. But for sure it won’t be a walk in the park. This final bit will guide me across the cold, barren and wind-swept wastelands of the Nordkinn peninsula. It is late September, and with the sun now already south of the equator, I am on a collision course with the onset of the cold and dark arctic winter.
It is a cold and sunny morning again when I leave Tana Bru. After hesitating for quite some time, I have sent my packraft to Mehamn by post yesterday, only to pick it up again after the end of my trip and before flying home. It saves me 4kg of weight in my backpack for the walk, but it also means I now have to walk the asphalt road along the Tana for a few kilometers instead of paddling the river.
After about 11km I reach the confluence of the Tana with the meandering Maskejohka river. I take a small side road towards the farms of Maskejohleahki, and then plunge into the peat bogs and birch forest when I start hiking up the Golggotvuopmi valley towards the Golggotjavri lake. The last scent of a path quickly fades and the hiking becomes hard through the dense forest and deep bogs. A bit after noon I finally reach the lake, and take a long break.
I follow the shore of the lake for a while, and then start climbing up through bogs and birch forest towards Siehpadat (317m). On the higher reaches of the elongated hill I finally reach easy and dry tundra terrain. The views from the summit are remarkable. A endless series of rolling hills make up the western and northern horizon, while I can see mighty the Tana river snaking towards the Barents Sea in the east, with the barren plateaus of the Varanger peninsula in the back.
An icy wind sweeps across the summit and after a short break I continue hiking the crest of the hill towards the north on easy tundra. When I get the Snoallajavri lake into view I descend into the birch forest again, where I surprise a flock of sheep (possibly the northernmost flock in the world!). It is already late in the afternoon. I do not find a bivouac spot along the lake, and already cover half of the descent towards the Vestertana fjord, where I finally find a nice flat spot along a tiny stream cascading down through the birch forest.
After a frosty night I wake with a perfectly clear sky again. I continue descending towards the beautiful Vestertana fjord, the point where I reach the Barents Sea for the first time. I find connection again to an asphalt road, which I follow for a few kilometers along the fjord until I reach the small fishery harbor of Galdogohppi, glued to the steep slopes of the fjord.
The hardest bit of the day is coming up: I climb up a very steep slope through the birch forest to reach the Hárjass plateau. At certain points I literally have to pull myself up by using the trunks of the trees. When I finally reach the plateau, it is a weird feeling to find myself sweating like a horse in t-shirt, taking a break along a pond which is covered by ice for the first time of the season. The views down the Vestertana fjord are breathtaking.
It becomes overcast when I track the narrow plateau towards the north, before descending steeply again towards the beach the the next fjord, Vesterbukta. I hike the beach towards the other side of the fjord, and then start climbing up again through a pretty side valley, Gangejohka, where the autumn colors are still remarkably well preserved. So close to the Nordkinn, I am surprised to find out that the treeline is still located at about 200m above sea level.
When I reach the head of the valley, I cross a subtle pass and descend towards the Beatnajohka stream, which cuts through complex terrain with shallow ravines as I track it up towards the beautiful Beatnajávri lake. The landscape opens up and becomes so incredibly empty and remote as I veer north and continue climbing towards the Bohkosleahki pass (490m). I would not be surprised if only a handful of humans have ever visited this place, located in a forgotten corner of the already forgotten Nordkinnhalvoya, many off-trail miles away from the nearest road access. Hours and kilometers fly by when I descend along a chain of lakes and into the Bohkosjohka valley, where I continue until I find a sheltered bivouac spot. It is getting overcast with increasing wind.
By the next morning a 6-7 beaufort easterly wind roars across the tundra with regular showers. I continue descending along the stream, which turns out to be rather nasty when I have to cross it near its confluence with a side stream at about 60m asl. The narrow valley suddenly opens up when I reach Langfjordbotn, at the head of the Langfjorden. A few houses are lined along the shore on what must be one of the most remote places to live in Europe. The Langfjordelva river, almost 50m wide, slides into the icy fjord and blocks my way north. This is the critical point of my Nordkinnhalvoya crossing, and the point about which I have been thinking a lot ever since I sent my packraft north by post.
I decide to ford the river high in the intertidal zone. The water is icy and the crossing long and deep (up to the hips at certain points), and I am battered by fierce winds and horizontal rain. But I make it to the other side, where I seek shelter behind an old deserted jeep to put on my pants again before continuing.
A gravel road through the valley connects the houses at the other side with the outside world. A follow it upstream for a few kilometers until I reach the side valley of the Nedre Tverrelva, a small stream cutting through a deeply incised valley. I leave the Langfjorddalen and start climbing up steeply high above the ravine, climbing above the treeline, which will soon dive into the sea, for the last time of the trip.
I climb up through a nameless valley, cross a 410m pass, and reach the real wastelands of the Nordkinn peninsula. Gone is the friendly, rolling tundra terrain and the oasis of birch forest in the sheltered valleys. What is lying in front of me is a vast, barren and empty plateau, scourged by low clouds, fierce winds and a mixture of rain, hail and sleet. I cross the Stohpogielas plateau and reach the asphalt road towards Hopseidet and Mehamn near the Reinoksvannan lake.
It has not occurred to me a lot before, but in these harsh conditions, I am happy to walk on the road. Every half an hour a car passes by. One of them is a police car, which stops to ask me if everything is okay. When I tell them I am feeling great they drive away again with a puzzled face. I try to imagine what I would be thinking when I would suddenly see a lonely hiker on one of the most remote stretches of road imaginable, in shit weather and over 30km away for the nearest house.
I eventually call it a day at lake 204m, on the descend towards Hopseidet. Sleet and snow fall during the night, and the higher bits of the plateau have a white touch by the next morning. I descend through the narrow Smielvdalen and then follow the fjord towards Hopseidet, a strip of land only 500m wide separating the Nordkinn peninsula sensu strictu from the mainland. The maximum elevation of this strip is only 2m above the high water line. During the Second World War, the Germans even made an (unsuccessful) attempt to excavate a channel in order to avoid the exposed circumnavigation of Nordkinn.
I climb up the plateau again, and continue following the road for a few more hours. The weather has calmed with some sun every now and then. The emptiness of the landscape is sobering and impressive at the same time.
A few kilometers before the junction of the roads towards Kjollefjord and Mehamn I leave the asphalt and hike off-trail towards Austvestvatnet, where I start the final section towards Nordkinn. The further north I hike, the more barren the landscape becomes, and once I have passed Storvatnet only rocks and boulders remain. I make camp near the Sverdvatnet on the only flat 2x1m strip of land I can find. After 120 days on the trail, it is hard to let the thought sink in: tomorrow I will reach Nordkinn.
26/09/2013: Tana Bru – Leaibbosroggi (33km, +430/-320, 7u20)
27/09/2013: Leaibbosroggi – Bohkosjohka (30km, +960/-910, 7u40)
28/09/2013: Bohkosjohka – Lake 204m (30km, +450/-420, 7u45)
29/09/2013: Lake 204m – Sverdvatnet (32km, +490/-430, 7u05)
30/09/2013: Sverdvatnet – NORDKINN/Sandfjorden (22km, +380/-620, 7u05)
01/10/2013: Sandfjorden – Mehamn (19km, +500/-520, 5u40)